Professor's research shows resilience in slum communities is a medicine-free way out of mental health issues


A professor at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has seen a slum community in western India working together to overcome mental health issues, without consultants or medication.


Children from Pune put on a community show

It is hoped the continuing research within the city of Pune will help DMU Mental Health Professor Raghu Raghavan and his team to inform public mental health professionals of potential ways communities deal with high levels of anxiety and depression.

Professor Raghavan is leading the first research project of its kind that looks at the resilience of men, women and children who have migrated to the Pune area from other parts of India.

Previous surveys had shown that the slum dwelling migrants frequently suffer higher levels of anxiety and depression.

The mental trauma of arriving in a new area, finding work, earning money, looking after family and ensuring there is a roof over their heads all add to the daily stress.

And yet, Professor Raghavan observed, without any mental health professionals or medication, the people in Pune are showing high levels of resilience in coping with these challenges.

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Professor Raghu Raghavan

After 18 months of field work interacting with families and listening to their stories Professor Raghavan and his team worked with Pune theatre group Swatantra to help the community put on a street play about their stories and celebrate their lives.

The underlying theme of the drama was to show to the communities that seeking help from the people you trust, showing compassion and teamwork all make for better mental health.


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The £200,000 research project, titled “Untold Stories of Mental Health and Resilience of Internal Migrants in India”, will continue until November before a national conference is held in India.

This will disseminate some of the findings as well as create a national conversation about migration and resilience.

Prof Raghavan said: “We wanted to ask how it is that what has happened to these people in their lives has seen them move on and create an inner strength.

“These people have experienced trauma but have found solutions to overcome it without ever seeing a mental health professional.

“The theatre project was important because it was a way for people from the communities to retell these stories back to the community.

“These are stories that are not usually heard from internal migrants from the low economic category in India. Theatre allowed the communities to tell their stories of finding solutions by themselves.”

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The community comes together to watch the theatre project

Prof Raghavan is currently leading a research project on mental health and illiteracy in rural and urban communities.

He is basing his research in the southern India region of Kerala, which has the highest literacy rate of any state in India and yet has the highest mental ill health and suicide rates.

The mental health and resilience project is being supported by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences in Bengaluru, the Institute of Health Management Pachod, Pune, and Swatantra theatre group in Pune.



Posted on Thursday 13th June 2019

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